Great ideas don’t always get good grades

As printed in The Marketplace – September-October 2018

Take the example of delivery giant FedEx, which had its genesis in a college term paper.

Founder Frederick Smith was an undergrad student at Yale in 1966, studying topology — ways to connect service points through a central hub to geometrically improve efficiencies. Smith recognized that guaranteed overnight delivery would be required in the new economy, and no one was at that time prepared to meet the need.

He got a poor grade on the paper but used the idea five years late to obtain planes, set up a hub and incorporated delivery trucks. The company bled red ink for its first four years but had sales of $1 billion by 1983.

An article in AdWeek magazine notes that each day, FedEx ships 14 million packages to 220 countries. Sales now top $60 billion.

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